Hyderabad: The Telangana High Court on Thursday allowed a petition of Vanpic Projects to quash a case registered against it by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as part of quid pro quo cases filed against Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Pronouncing the order in the criminal petition filed by Vanpic Projects represented by its general manager P.K. Ravi, Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan on Thursday said the petitioner is a Corporate Entity, an artificial person, who is not at all discernible and that it would not at all secure the ends of justice if the criminal prosecution is allowed to continue against the petitioner, a corporate entity, through its chairman (Nimmagadda Prasad).
Further, the judge has also stressed that the CBI court did not record with any satisfaction that there is a prima facie case against Vanpic
Projects or of the chairman; whether only the chairman can be held vicariously liable for commission of the alleged offence by the corporate entity.
Citing the observations of the Supreme Court on several occasions related to vicarious liability of the officials of the corporate entity, Justice Bhuyan stated that there cannot be any automatic fastening of criminal culpability on the chairman for commission of alleged offence by the Vanpic Projects, and observed that the CBI court applied its mind mechanically while taking cognisance of the petitioner, an artificial person.
Vanpic Projects represented by its chairman Nimmagadda Prasad was awarded the Vadrarevu and Nizampatnam Ports and Industrial Corridor (Vanpic) project by the government of Andhra Pradesh, when Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was the chief minister, to develop the ports and SEZ Corridor in Prakasam and Guntur districts. Subsequently, the government of Andhra Pradesh has allotted more than 15,000 acres of land to Vanpic Projects allegedly violating all norms and procedures.
A CBI probe was ordered in 2012 after it was alleged that the alienations or acquisitions of lands and other benefits for Vanpic Projects were granted at the behest of the Chief Minister who was under the influence of his son Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
After the conclusion of the investigation, the CBI registered an FIR and filed a final report, which makes 14 accused persons face a trial. The list of the accused includes Vanpic Projects Pvt. Ltd., represented by Nimmagadda Prasad as accused number 10 in his capacity as its chairman. Nimmagadda Prasad was also listed as accused number 3 and his brother Nimmagadda Prakash as accused number 9.
It was also alleged that Nimmagadda Prasad — in furtherance of criminal conspiracy — in the guise of investments paid illegal gratification of Rs 854.50 crore to Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and his group companies as a quid-pro-quo.
Challenging the CBI’s version, Vanpic Projects filed a discharge petition before the CBI Court, and pleaded to quash the case against it. The CBI Court rejected its petition. Vanpic Projects, however, approached the High Court in 2021 challenging the CBI court order and requested to quash the case against it, which was allowed by the High Court on Thursday.